Searching on the App Store

Based on John Gruber’s recommendation, I downloaded TypeSnippets for iPhone. I searched for it on the App Store, but I mistakenly thought it was called TypeSnippet (without the ‘s’).

Here’s what happened:

The iOS App Store search results page for 'typesnippet', showing zero results
What happens when you search for ‘typesnippet’ on the App Store

No results.

NO. Results. 

Just because I missed an ‘s’ from the end of my search query.

It’s 2015. There’s no place in the world for search fields that are this unforgiving. For all of the great user experiences Apple can deliver, even they get some of the basics very very wrong.

Incidentally, if you remember the ‘s’, everything’s fine and you’ll find a great app:

A screenshot of the App Store showing a successful search result for TypeSnippet
Type the exact name of the app and everything’s fine

 

Pebble Time

I backed Pebble Time on Kickstarter last night. That colour e-paper screen looks stunning, and the seven-day battery life is a lot more palatable than the single day the Apple Watch will initially offer. 

I’ve been sitting on the Apple Watch fence since it was announced, but last night I made up my mind to wait until at least the second iteration before giving Apple yet another license to reach into my wallet each year. 

I’m willing to bet that we’ll see a big evolutionary jump between the first and second generation Apple Watches (like we did with the iPad) as Apple figures out how to deliver an optimal experience from this new category of device. It looks like the Pebble Time will tide me over nicely until then. 

What good is Twitter?

I read two great articles today that turn a critical eye towards Twitter.

The first is an illuminating piece by Derek Thompson, who questions the value of Twitter to anything but itself.

It’s fair to come away from these metrics thinking that Twitter is worthless. But that’s an unsophisticated conclusion. The more sophisticated takeaway is that Twitter is worthless for the limited purpose of driving traffic to your website, because Twitter is not a portal for outbound links, but rather a homepage for self-contained pictures and observations…

Something I already suspected has now been made crystal clear: 99 percent of my work on Twitter belongs to Twitter.

The second is a piece by Kevin Roose for Fusion that explores “tweet-deleters”: a subculture of Twitter users who are using tools to automatically delete their own tweets after a set period of time.

In the beginning, Twitter was supposed to be a vessel for fleeting thoughts. People posted about their lunches, their sports teams, the news of the day. But because tweets are public and permanent by default, all of those ephemeral tweets congealed over the years into a kind of global permanent record…

Josh Miller, a product manager at Facebook, wrote a piece of code that deleted his tweets after seven days. He frames his tweet-deleting as a decision to make Twitter more like other forms of conversation.

“My opinions aren’t permanent in my head (I often change my mind over time), and they’re not permanent when shared around the dinner table (nobody is recording our conversations),” Miller wrote in an e-mail. “So it just doesn’t make sense to me that they would be permanent online.”

I recently deactivated my Twitter account (for a week) to try and better understand the role the little blue bird is (and should be) playing in my life. I’m still processing and learning from the experience, but one thing I’m sure of is that it’s worth pausing once in a while to evaluate my relationship with the online social networks I belong to.

I hope these articles are signs of a cultural shift towards a more considered and critical approach to ‘sharing’ online.

The Room at Bristol Bad Film Club

Last night I attended my first Bristol Bad Film Club screening at the Redgrave Theatre.

We saw The Room, which has been their most-requested film to date. It’s not hard to see why!

Here’s a clip:

The Room is something else. I imagine this is what would happen if an alien made a film about human relationships without really understanding how and why people interact with each other.

If you get a chance to see this film, take it. You won’t regret forget it.

Pay to comment

Alana Newhouse, editor-in-chief of Tablet magazine:

…the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal-and, often, anonymous-minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who’d like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee-less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation.

Vitriolic comments are probably my least favourite thing about the Internet. (I’m convinced that one of the reasons I don’t use YouTube as much as everyone else seems to is because I find the comments so upsetting.)

I’m not sure that asking commenters to pay is the answer. It raises some classist and borderline ethical issues, as Chris Plante points out for The Verge:

There is, of course, an argument that charging for comments is kind of classist, and that $2 a day for the minor privilege of leaving feedback on a single website invites only those with cash to burn to participate in the conversations on the site. But that’s part of a larger conversation about the perceived right to comment freely on privately owned website.

Regardless of this, I think Tablet deserves credit for being bold and trying something different. I’m keen to see what the end results are. It’s certainly a more reasonable and realistic approach than forcing everyone to use their real identities online.

A bit of fun with home links

Here’s a neat little design detail I’d love to see more of online:

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This is the logo for Balsamiq, a low-fi, rapid wireframing tool. Like most company / product websites, Balsamiq’s logo lives up in the top-left corner of every page. And just like pretty much every other website, selecting the logo will take you to the homepage.

What’s notable here is that Balsamiq’s web designers have added a neat little animation when you hover over the logo. Do that, and here’s what you see:

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This playful visual cue confirms that clicking the logo will take you to the homepage. While this isn’t really necessary (homepage logo links are a well-established interaction paradigm), this little touch nevertheless reinforces the convention and shows that Balsamiq’s designers went just that little bit further to make their site more usable and fun.

If nothing else, it may raise a smile.

(A version of this post was originally published to my now defunct Tumblr blog in February 2013.)

Nintendo eShop card codes

Here’s a nice piece of interaction design I noticed this morning on the Wii U.

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The image above shows the Wii U gamepad when accessing the Nintendo eShop (Nintendo’s online digital store). This screen is for entering the 16-digit code from a pre-paid eShop card, giving you funds to spend on downloadable games.

This interface is notable for two reasons:

First, the 16-digit code is broken down into four, four-character chunks. This encourages a four-beat, read/type rhythm that makes entering the code easier.

Secondly, eShop card codes (which are made up of seemingly random alphanumeric characters) don’t contain ambiguous letters that commonly get mistaken for numbers. These letters (I, O, Z) are inactive and greyed out on the keyboard, ensuring that nobody confuses them with the numbers 1, 0 and 2.

Overall, the Nintendo’s digtal offerings leave much to be desired, but design decisions like the ones above show that at least someone at the ’big N’ is thinking about the user experience.

Merry Christmas

I’ve been pretty busy over the last few weeks and as a result I’ve been neglecting the blog. Christmas is usually a pretty quiet period; work tends to wind down as we creep closer to December 25th, but this year things didn’t really go quiet until Christmas eve.

I have a load of draft posts I’ll be fleshing out over the holidays, so I’m hoping to have a prolific (start to) 2015. I just wanted to take this opportunity to ‘check in’ and post something in the interim. Like bowel movements, blog posts are best when they’re regular. :)

I’m also planning to grow the blog in 2015 by adding some functionality (comments & analytics) and content (‘about’ & ‘portfolio’ pages). The pace at which these features are added depends on the speed of development of the Ghost platform itself. Gone are the days when I enjoyed spending hours in code editors hacking theme files to add custom features to my blog. These days I just want to write. I want to let my blog to grow naturally with the Ghost platform, so as soon as the Ghost team add functionality like code injection, I’ll start adding those bells & whistles.

Aaaaaanyway… to whoever may read this: I hope you’re having a great holiday. Catch you in 2015.

UX Discuss

Thursday lunchtimes have quickly become UX Discuss hour.

UX Discuss is a weekly Twitter discussion centred around a single UX-flavoured topic. Three questions are posted on the UX Discuss website a week in advance, giving participants a chance to form ideas and formulate opinions before the event.

Before UX Discuss I’d never taken part in a group chat on Twitter. I expected chaos, but the founders, Hugo Froes and Rob Whiting do a good job of facilitating the conversation and keeping the discussion on-track. The three-question format, hour time limit and Twitter’s 140-character restriction keep things snappy and prevent anyone from getting overly verbose.

After each discussion, selected tweets are compiled into a Storify story, creating a kind of snapshot of current thinking within our industry. (Here’s the story from last week’s discussion about empathy: How important is empathy in UX?)

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I think it’s important to write about what we do. To quote Sally Kerrigan in one of my favourite articles:

“When you write about your work, it makes all of us smarter for the effort, including you – because it forces you to go beyond the polite cocktail-party line you use to describe what you do and really think about the impact your work has.”

For me, UX Discuss is a chance to take an hour a week to think about what I do and to bounce some ideas off my peers, which often helps me better understand the meaning and impact my work has.

UX Discuss is open to all. To be part of the discussion you just need to use the hashtag #UXDiscuss. The next discussion is today at 1pm GMT and focuses on UX Roles. I hope to see you there!